CMC Town Hall Summary: MLA Conference 2021

Summary by Felicia Piscitelli (Texas A&M University)

Speakers: Hermine Vermeij (University of California, Los Angeles) , Karen Peters (Library of Congress), Rebecca Belford (Oberlin College), Keith Knop (University of Georgia), Kevin Kishimoto (Stanford University), Kathy Glennan (University of Maryland), Damien Iseminger (Library of Congress). Moderator: Hermine Vermeij. Technical support: Janice Bunker (Brigham Young University)

The 2021 Cataloging and Metadata Committee (CMC) Town Hall took place on Monday, March 1, 20201. It was unusual in two respects: First, it occurred on the first day of the MLA Annual Meeting (normally, the Town Hall takes place later in the conference), and secondly, it was the first to be held entirely online, thanks to travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus. As usual, the Town Hall featured updates and items topics of special interest in music cataloging and metadata, followed by an open Q&A forum. CMC Chair and Town Hall moderator Hermine Vermeij opened the session at 4:30 pm. ET with greetings and reminders about protocols, announcements about upcoming subcommittee business meetings and two CMC-sponsored presentations: “Provider-Neutral Cataloging for Digital Scores”, and “Meeting the Need for Metadata Accessibility and Usability: Ergonomics and Adaptive Technology for Producers and Consumers”. Hermine also gave updates on the CMC website and announced openings on the subcommittees, and for a new webmaster. There were 177 virtual attendees.

Karen Peters, Chair of the CMC Encoding Standards Subcommittee (CMC/ESS), reported on published changes to MARC, many of which are intended to accommodate linked data. MARC Update 30 of May 2020 includes new subfields $0 (Authority record control number or standard number), $1 (Real World Object URI) and $2 (Source, for capturing machine actionable URIs) to fields 310 (Current publication frequency) and 362 (Former publication frequency), and 310 was made repeatable.
A value of 2 (Not machine generated) was added to the 1st indicator (Method of field 883 (Metadata Provenance) for all formats, since not all metadata is created by machines.

In MARC Update of December 2020, field 043 (Geographic area code) was made repeatable. A new field, 335 (Extension plan) was added to Bibliographic and Authority formats to accommodate a new RDA element for recording an intention to extend to content of a work (for example, a composer’s complete works); five terms are included in the Vocabulary Encoding Scheme. The field name for field 345 (Moving Image Characteristics) was changed to include the addition of non-projection characteristics in subfields $c and $d, concerning aspect ratios. Subfields $0, $1, and $2 were added to field 375 (Gender) for the Authority format and 384 (Key) for both Bibliographic and Authority formats. The 384 brought up questions concerning the coding of musical systems other than Western major/minor tonality, and reference was made—and a link provided in the chat box–to a list of terms issued by IFLA. Nine unused or seldom-used subfields in field 856 were made obsolete, and a new field 881 for Manifestation Statement was added. Music catalogers would be especially interested in the CMC/ESS’s proposal to expand field 046, Special Coded Dates, with a first indicator coded for Type of Entity (1=work, 2=expression, 3=manifestation) in the Bibliographic format, and subfields $3 (Materials specified), $x (Non-public note) and $z (Public note) were added. These changes were approved by the MARC Advisory Group and will appear in MARC Update 32 later this year. Other approved proposals include a new field 335 for Encoded Supplementary Material Characteristics and field 334 for Recording the Mode of Issuance for Manifestations, which reflects whether a manifestation is issued in one or more units. Of particular interest to music and audiovisual catalogers is the addition of subfield $i to field 344 (Sound Content) to indicate the presence or absence of sound (for example, in a silent film). Proposals for another subfield for the 344 for Original Sound Capture and Storage and new fields for recording the Type of Binding for Manifestations and for Data Provenance were not approved but are likely to be discussed and re-proposed later.

Rebecca Belford, Chair of the CMC Vocabularies Subcommittee (CMC/VSS), advised catalogers to bookmark links to MLA’s Best Practices for Using LCMPT and Best Practices for Using LCGFT for Music Resources on the landing page of CMC’s website instead of the PDFs to ensure access to the most recent versions. Belford also gave updates on MLA proposals headed to the Library of Congress for approval, 7 for LCGFT and 3 for LCMPT, and proposals for 16 revisions and 4 new terms for voice and choir terms in LCMPT to make them more gender neutral. Eleven new terms for LCGFT and 7 for LCMPT appeared in 2020-2021, mainly relating to world music. CMC/VSS also created or modified three terms for types of compositions to be used in Authorized Access Points (AAPs); five more terms are under discussion. Currently, there is a project underway to add plural forms to 600 non-preferred type of composition terms as references for their preferred forms. Five thematic indexes were approved for the Thematic Indexes used in LC Authority Files. Thematic indexes coded $2 mlati must be on this list; those not on the list can be coded in 383 $c. Rebecca then put in a plug for the OCLC Music Toolkit developed by Gary Strawn as a good way to incorporate and encode these new vocabulary items.

Keith Knop, Chair of CMC Content Standards Subcommittee (CMC/CSS), talked about Best Practices for Resource Description and Access (RDA) in light of the new RDA Toolkit that came out in December 2020. Unlike its previous version, the new RDA is not easy to navigate. It lacks a linear structure, few obvious entry points (for example, no chapter numbers), and limited space in the right rail. Some things formerly covered as best practices are now considered community resources. As a result, MLA’s Best Practices needed to be revised in time for the an update to the new RDA Toolkit on April 6. What music catalogers can expect from this update are elements corresponding to original RDA Chapter 2 (Identifying Manifestations and Items) and perhaps some elements corresponding to Chapter 3 (Describing Carriers). Hopefully, all Manifestation elements will be stable and available for comment before the next release on July 27. However, Work, Expression, Agent, and Relationship elements will probably need to wait for further guidance from LC-PCC.

Kevin Kishimoto, Chair of the Linked Data Working Group (LDWG), reported on a test of Sinopia, a BIBFRAME based platform developed to edit linked data. The goal of this test for MLA’s Working Group was to evaluate the robustness, replicability, and logic of the Performed Music Ontology (PMO) by analyzing the metadata of a body of items cataloged with Sinopia. Working Group members cataloged around 10 items each, resulting in 60 to 70 items in the test run. Kishimoto also talked about the Mellon grant-funded Linked Data for Production (LD4P) project spearheaded by Stanford University and 16 other participating institutions, in which various types of material were cataloged in Sinopia. During the summer of 2020 the LD4P project went from its second to its third phase, with an impetus towards increasing the involvement of the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) in creating linked data. Tools to be developed and improved include Cornell University’s created Questioning Authority lookup function that was incorporated into Sinopia; a BIBFRAME to MARC converter, an API, and integration of linked data in discovery systems.

Kathy Glennan, Chair of the RDA Steering Committee, gave a presentation on “The New RDA Toolkit: How Did We Get Here, and What DO We Do Next?” She began with a short history of descriptive cataloging standards going back to AACR, through the now “classic” RDA: Resource Description and Access, to the 3R (RDA Restructure and Redesign) Project, thereby outlining the reasons for changes in these standards. The goal of the 3R Project was to move from the Functional Requirements of Bibliographic Records (FRBR) model to the newer Library Reference Model (LRM), thus making the new RDA more international in scope and more applicable to a linked data environment, as well as to organizations such as museums and archives. The new official RDA was published at the end of 2020; updates and changes will be incorporated in releases issued quarterly. Implementation of the new Toolkit will be determined by institutions and communities. Its format is intended to much more open and flexible; it is designed for a constantly evolving publishing environment and changing user expectations. It would accommodate metadata that is inter-operable and reusable. This flexibility has drawbacks, some of which were mentioned in Keith Knop’s earlier presentation. Communities (such as MLA) will need to create their own application profiles and devise robust instructions and documentation to support their policies. (The British Library and the Library on Congress/Program for Cooperative Cataloging have created draft policies.) Going forward, catalogers will need to rely more on machine-actionable linked data, and less on formulated strings or on complete “records”; obsolete information will be “deprecated” rather than deleted. Catalogers will also have to learn a new vocabulary, such as “entities”, “elements”, “nomens”, “appellations”, etc. However, many of the concepts behind these terms were retained from the older RDA. She provided a number of resources and links at the end of her talk.

Damian Iseminger’s presentation, “Names & Titles & Labels, Oh My! Understanding Appellations, String Encoding Schemes, and Element Labels in RDA” went more into the weeds with the new Toolkit. He began with naming things (RDA entities) and how the use of appellations, preferred and variant names, and authorized and variant access points can vary among a manual catalog, a database, and open linked data. Next he talked about string encoding schemes, or standardized instructions on constructing the labels of entities. “Classic” or “old” RDA specified ways of naming musical, legal, and religious works and official communications; in the interest of internationalization, the new RDA delegates the formulation of these access points to cataloging communities. Relationship designators are now Elements in the new RDA, and preference is given labels that are unique and machine operable. The Library of Congress has transferred its Policy Statements to the Toolkit. However, policy statements for new elements and application profiles are still under development, and will not be implemented earlier than July 2022.